265: Erik Walenza-Slabe

265: Erik Walenza-Slabe

 

Podcast highlights:

  • [12:12] There is clearly something special happening in Shanghai. What has been your personal experience with this? -- Like New York City or Silicon Valley, people from all over China are coming to Shanghai with the mentality of wanting to create something. There's a very welcoming environment where people are trying to figure out how to work together to make things.
  • [36:00] Let's look at what's going on in the IoT space. What is coming out that excites you? -- In the industrial space in China there are a few big players who may not be globally competitive but who are competitive in China. What's going to take people by surprise are the companies coming up now. We don't know who will make it big, but this is where things will happen.
  • [43:00] Do you get time to go out and walk the floor in Chinese factories? Do you get to see what's going on? -- Running a company means you don't have as much time to do this is you might like. What we see is that the potential for IoT has great potential in discrete manufacturing. This market is very interesting to us. Those medium-tier companies who don't have the resources necessary to retool as often as necessary but whose business model depends on them being nimble in their manufacturing.

Podcast notes:

  • [00:05] Welcome Erik Walenza to Asia Tech Podcast Stories
  • [00:37] What attracted you to Shanghai? -- Came in 2010 to do an MBA in partnership with Fudan University. Shanghai is an incredible city. Something like 60% of foreign multinationals have their China headquarters in Shanghai. So this was something of convenience.
  • [02:40] What was China like when you first same in 2005? -- Went first to Nanjing, a city of something like 6 million people. It's a good-sized city, but it's no Shanghai. Even then though it was obvious construction was everywhere and that China was growing.
  • [04:40] How did you transition from teaching into the technology sector? -- The people in China made a very good impression. Between 2008-2010 there was really a conversation as to whether China could make the transition from "factory to the world" to a more high-end economy. It seemed clear that China was going to follow broadly the same model as America. So the question was to figure out where to fit in.
  • [07:59] How did people in the US react when you told them you were going back to China? -- It was clear how fast things were moving. Each time things were new. If you travel to places in America, even after being away for a long time you find just not much has changed. This isn't the feeling in China.
  • [12:12] There is clearly something special happening in Shanghai. What has been your personal experience with this? -- Like New York City or Silicon Valley, people from all over China are coming to Shanghai with the mentality of wanting to create something. There's a very welcoming environment where people are trying to figure out how to work together to make things.
  • [15:30] How big is Startup Grind now? -- Hard to say because there is no firm membership. People come when they want and participate when they want. There is a core team of nine members and between 120 to 150 people coming to every event. In a looser sense there are probably 5000 to 10,000 people over the years with whom we've engaged.
  • [17:15] Who are the sorts of people who turn up at your events? Do you get the Chinese engineers to turn out? -- It's a challenge. English is often a barrier for Chinese engineers and plus they may not see the necessity of turning out to a networking event.
  • [19:25] What is the vibe like at your events? -- Shanghai just completely clicks with the vibe of Startup Grind. It's very open and engaging. The basic thing is to just come in, get a glass of beer or wine, and start talking to someone. It's works really smoothly. But now, Startup Grind is expanding into second-tier Chinese cities. Events in those places feel more formalized. It's different than how things work in Shanghai.
  • [27:35] Let's talk about IoT ONE. This is so to speak your day job. What's it about? -- We look at the entire stack and we look at it from an industrial standpoint. Basically anything that is not consumer or smart home-focused. We are focused on looking at this space and finding out who are the players. Who is bringing technology to this space? What is actually getting done? We sit on both sides of the supply and demand gap.
  • [31:45] Is IoT ONE a business? Is it a marketplace? What is it? -- You can think of it like a LinkedIn. People can create profiles for their companies. Another thing we do is work as something like a consultant; helping people find answers to challenges.
  • [36:00] Let's look at what's going on in the IoT space. What is coming out that excites you? -- In the industrial space in China there are a few big players who may not be globally competitive but who are competitive in China. What's going to take people by surprise are the companies coming up now. We don't know who will make it big, but this is where things will happen.
  • [43:00] Do you get time to go out and walk the floor in Chinese factories? Do you get to see what's going on? -- Running a company means you don't have as much time to do this is you might like. What we see is that the potential for IoT has great potential in discrete manufacturing. This market is very interesting to us. Those medium-tier companies who don't have the resources necessary to retool as often as necessary but whose business model depends on them being nimble in their manufacturing.